For those still mourning the end of the Twilight series, here's something to get you back on your feet - another supernatural teen love story, with witches and warlocks replacing vampires and werewolves.
Based on the first book in the Caster Chronicles series, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, this coming-of-age story has been adapted for the big screen by director Richard LaGravenese (PS: I Love You). He's pulled together almost everything required to launch a successful new series; a solid cast, impressive visual effects and a charming South Carolina setting.
What the film's success depends on though, and what's not quite delivered, is a strong core love story with the sizzle the Twilight audience has come to expect.
Alice Englert, daughter of New Zealand director Jane Campion, does a fabulous job playing Lena, a young witch known as a Caster, who moves to the small town of Gatlin just before her 16th birthday. Staying with her reclusive Uncle Macon Ravenwood (Irons), who everyone believes to be a devil worshipper, Lena is maligned and bullied by all her fellow students except the sweet and charming Ethan (a slightly too-old-looking Alden Ehrenreich).
Lena and Ethan strike up a friendship and begin dating. However, their timing is unfortunate as a Caster's true nature is revealed on their 16th birthday, with Lena to be claimed either by a light force as a good witch or by a dark force as an evil witch - neither of which are particularly good news for Ethan.
As is the tendency with stories based in a fantasy world, where a lot of information needs to be laid out, the plot becomes a touch wishy-washy and gets bogged down in introductions and explanation. There's also an evil, long lost mother, Sarafine (Thompson), who has ambitious plans for her daughter if she becomes an evil witch, which are never quite clear and a curse to be dealt with, which was placed on Lena's family by an ancestor during the Civil War.
At times good fun, with all the melodrama and magic you'd expect, but this first installment is equally plodding and promising. You're left feeling there's plenty more to be revealed about this town and its people. Maybe the next movie can concentrate on delivering the sizzle and excitement that would make us care about the characters a little more.
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Running time: 124 mins
Rating: M (Supernatural themes & violence)
Verdict: Twilight with witches.